Not that there aren’t myriad urgent issues facing the new Detroit City Council, but News Hits can’t resist suggesting that disbanding the body be placed quickly on the agenda. OK, not literally disbanding, but the council could act to put a charter revision before voters that would do away with the present at-large system, replacing it either with elections by district, or some combination of a few at-large seats in conjunction with district representation.
This idea has weighed on News Hits since the last election, though not necessarily for the usual reasons. Typically the argument goes that with elections by district, citizens would have someone in particular to complain to, and candidates would have some neighborhoods in particular to answer to. Thus, citizens would be better represented and democracy better served. Which is all fine and good. But what really caught the interest of News Hits was the complaint that the media — from local TV to the dailies to this august weekly — didn’t do enough to inform the public about the candidates. From where News Hits watches, it seems that Metro Times, the dailies and everyone else could double or triple coverage and find that it’s still no substitute for a vigorous political process wherein candidates themselves have some incentive to challenge one another. One-on-one general elections by districts would do that; 18-way free-for-alls for nine seats will never be more than popularity contests that strongly favor incumbents.
Why put it on the agenda early? So the council can take ownership of the issue before another drive from the state Legislature (which has a history of trying to stick its finger in this pot) reduces valid arguments to the issue of “meddling from Lansing.”
More importantly, think of all the great fodder head-to-head council races would provide News Hits.W. Kim Heron, Metro Times' managing editor, contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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